Jesus

Jesus

Responding to Political Turmoil

1. Model humble repentance.
Christians should be humbly honest about our sin. There’s too much handwringing over the state of our nation and too little honest examination of how the church has drifted from submission to God’s Word as supreme. We scream across the fence about the rusty car in our neighbor’s backyard while the ceiling in our kitchen is caving in. We tend to feel more in common with non-Christians who share our politics than with fellow Christians who view this political moment differently than we do. While Christians decry identity politics, far too many of us identify by our politics. 

2. Anchor your identity in Christ, and don’t let go.
Identity is a struggle for all of us at some point, and identity is a combination of who we are and our framework for understanding who we are. A person who succeeds in almost every area of life yet has a failed marriage can feel like a failure—because his identity is anchored in his family. Alternatively someone who fails in almost every area of life—dad, husband, church member, friend—yet succeeds at work can feel fulfilled because he identifies with his work. A right orientation to life comes from being rightly oriented to God through Jesus Christ. We must identify ourselves primarily as children of God through Jesus Christ. The gospel becomes the primary orienting reality in our lives because we’re children of God loved by a Heavenly Father, declared righteous through the perfectly lived life and sacrificial death of Christ.  

3. Lean into the faithfulness of Christ, and pray.
Hebrews 4 tells us how to approach God: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens … Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. When we lean into the faithfulness of Christ, we can be bold, even fearless. We can grab ahold of the legs of our Heavenly Father and plead with him. And he will hear us, because Jesus has gone before us.

4. Commit to grace-fueled, white-hot spirituality.
The so-called casual Christian is increasingly just a non-Christian. In my parents’ and grandparents’ generation, people walked away from Jesus’ church but said they still knew Jesus. My generation doesn’t even pretend to hold onto Jesus. The cultural Christianity of our parents has given birth to non-Christians—what statisticians call the “nones.” I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:1–2). Pursue God with your whole heart and life. The greatest threat to our world isn’t a virus or a political party. It’s that millions of people are dying and entering an eternity in hell without Christ. And our most urgent mission is people filled with the good news of Jesus telling the people going to hell that they don’t have to. 

5. Remember the King of kings still reigns!
No matter who the president is, we know who our King is. And he is King of kings and Lord of lords.

  • Proverbs 21:1: Our God holds the king’s heart in his hand.
  • Isaiah 45:7: Our God forms light and creates darkness.
  • Job 42:2: Our God can do all things, and no purpose of his can be thwarted.
  • Lamentations 3:37: Our God speaks, and it comes to pass, and it can’t come to pass, unless he commands it. 
  • Colossians 1:17: Our God is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
  • Revelation 19:11–16: Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True … His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns … On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Our God is the eternal king. Our King reigns, and our King is coming back!

A Prayer for Today

Father, our world is broken, and we’ve proven time and time again that we’re unable to fix it ourselves. We weep with those who weep and hurt with those who are hurting. We pray for peace and justice for the family of George Floyd, and we pray for peace and justice in communities of color. These protests are an expression of pain. Help us respond with appropriate repentance—individually and corporately.

We also pray for justice for all lawlessness, and for the restoration of property and the peace of our cities. And we ask for the peace and protection of law enforcement, national guard, and other folks who are placing their lives on the line to stem the tide of evil. Would you give government officials wisdom to balance the need for justice, security, due process, and freedom of speech?

We intercede for African American members of our congregation that you would grant them peace of mind and grace in Christ. For men, women, and families who put their lives on the line each day in service—that you will give them courage and wisdom. These are such perilous times.

And, Lord, may the church of Christ be a beacon of repentance, hope, and love, and a model for the kind of courageous peace and unity that we see in your Word. May our lives be marked by clear, compelling love for each other and the community around us. And give us opportunities to speak the hope of the gospel into the darkness around us. We ask that you would bring people into the family of God in this time of chaos.

Jesus, you are a Man of Sorrows, well acquainted with grief, and today is a reminder of that grief. You were broken, so that we might be whole; your blood was shed so we might be forgiven. We pray all of this in the name of Jesus the Savior who rose to conquer sin, death, and hell. Amen.

Christmas & Christian Empathy

If there’s any time of year that should move Christians to empathy with their fellow man, it’s Christmas. Yet when you hear Christians talk about Christmas, you hear words like celebration, worship, family, together, etc. (which are all great!). The incarnation of Jesus, though, is the greatest model for empathy the world has ever seen.

Empathy in the Incarnation
When God became man, he left the eternal glory and joy of being God and of enjoying all that God deserves. Jesus, in entering the created world, humbled himself and entered into our discomfort and pain. He knows what it is to be hungry, to have no place to lay his head, to feel left out and mocked. God tells us Jesus did this because of his great love for us. The shame he experienced was far greater than anything any other human being has ever experienced. And one result of Jesus’ experience of humility and shame is that he can empathize like no other person the world has ever known: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

A Problem
In spite of the fact that the Christmas season models the compassion of God so clearly, Christians often view human suffering as a problem to be solved—or worse—avoided and ignored. Simply read what many majority Christians and Christian leaders say about those on the margins of society in our own country or about refugees from war and abuse huddled in camps in other countries.

We view the refugee and the outcast as a political problem to be solved or an inconvenience to be avoided. This ought not to be! There’s truth in the concept of personal responsibility, but the idea that anyone can overcome life’s obstacles through hard work and determination doesn’t work equitably across the board. Jesus’ birth teaches us this. Yes, our world (and the United States, in particular) is filled with unparalleled opportunity, but Mary and Joseph finding refuge in a stable, then fleeing to Egypt, is a model for Christian compassion and empathy, not for the doctrine of self-help.

What I’m Not Trying to Do
I’m not attempting to address the responsibilities of people to own their problems and work to overcome them (that’s the other side of the coin). Rather, I pray that God will give Christians eyes to see that our responsibility is to listen with compassion and empathy. Christian leaders should take the lead in calls for compassion and help for those in need—even if those needs are complicated and difficult to address.

Call to Action: Humility
First, as Christians, we should see the humility and shame of Christ and recognize that a little humility goes a long way for us in these conversations. As first-world, majority-culture Christians, the truth is that we just don’t “get” a lot of problems that those living on the margins deal with. This should move us to humility, as we have a lot to learn. I don’t know what it’s like to be a black or hispanic person in America, and I certainly don’t know what it’s like to be a refugee whose home has been destroyed by war.

Call to Action: Empathy
True humility moves us to compassionate empathy. While we may not literally feel the pain of a Syrian refugee, we should try to empathize with the hurting. Jesus actually did feel our pain and carry it in his body, so that we wouldn’t have to endure the worst consequences of our sin. So take off your “political hat” for a few minutes, and hurt with those who hurt. Weep with those who weep.

Call to Action: Love One Person
One difficulty of calls to listen and empathize is that the problems are so great there is no way any human being or human institution, including the US government, can address all of the issues. But we can love one person who’s not like us. We can love one person who’s hurting, and we can listen with humble empathy to the broader problems, asking God to give us wisdom on when and how to engage.

Jesus’ Identity and Mission

I love Jesus' two names in Matthew 1:21 and 1:23. Matthew tells us that Mary's son would be named “Jesus” and then almost immediately predicts that the baby would be named “Immanuel.”

So what's the baby's name? From our 21st-century perspective, this may seem like a simple answer, but a first reading of this passage can be a little bit confusing. Why call the child two names? A short answer is that God thought it was important to clearly articulate who the child was (His identity) and what the child came to do (His mission).

Identity – Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. (Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” [which means, God with us].)

Mission – Jesus Christ came to rescue His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”)

So, if you're looking for a way to articulate who Jesus is and what He came to do, there may be no better place to go.